BootsnAll Travel Network

Otavalo – Baños – Nariz del Diablo

I write from the town of Cuenca where I’ve just arrived after a 5 hour bus ride on flooded and slightly treacherous roads. But the last few days have been full of fun (and even the occasional treacherous journey in bus is fun when you get to see cool places as a result).

After my last entry, I went to spend Friday night in the town of Otavalo, which is a few hours north of Quito. Every Saturday morning the place is flooded with people (tourists and indigenous people selling their animals and wares). The market is overwhelming and awesome, and I got to practice my bargaining skills in Spanish (me puede rebajar un poquito?). The women of the town all come to the market dressed beautifully in gold beads and white lace shirts. Here’s one of them selling dream catchers:


On Saturday night I ended up at a random house party in Quito (the people from the hostel knew of a supposed “swingers” party, but I was relieved that it turned out to be much more of a run of the mill masquerade party than anything out of Eyes Wide Shut). Still, it was cool to party with actual Ecuadorians, and the party was on the roof of this awesome building in Quito (unfortunately drank a bit much to remember to take any pictures).

On Monday morning I headed out to the town of Baños a few hours to the south of Quito. On my bus ride there I met a nice Dutch girl named Lisette, who was also traveling alone. After arriving in town we headed straight to the outdoor thermal baths for some night bathing. The baths were amazing, nice and hot and surrounded by the mountains, and we got to soak in them while a refreshing light rain was falling. We walked back from the baths and got a great view of the church all lit up at night:

Banos Church

Feeling adventurous, Lisette and I decided to arrange a horseback tour of the local mountains/waterfalls for the next morning. Here’s me on my horse Indio, about to cry because he is at the edge of a cliff and I have no ability to control him:

Ariella Indio
Worst posture on a horse ever

Four hours on a horse was a bit much, and I’m still feeling it in my ass 2 days later. But it certainly was an adventure. And the horses took us to this lookout over all of Baños, which was pretty spectacular:

Banos view

Coming down the mountain wasn’t nearly as fun, as the paths were extremely narrow and the horses kept slipping over rocks/trying to eat rather than continue down the mountain. I think merry go round horses are more my speed…

On my way out of Baños I picked up some toffee, which is a local speciality there:


Making it is actually pretty labor intensive; people stand around all day pulling it from knobs in the doorways:

Toffee Maker

From Baños we headed to the town of Riobamba to catch the famous “Nariz del Diablo” train for Wednesday morning (basically an old train that goes through a series of crazy switchbacks on an old mountain track, a part of which looks like “The Devil’s Nose”). Unfortunately the train from Riobamba was already sold out, so this morning we had to head to the town of Alausi to catch up with the train further out.

Stranded in Alausi for a few hours waiting for the train, we got to take in some local sights:

Came upon two women in a bidding war over this pig’s head

These poor guys wait around for cock fights later in the week I believe

Finally we got on the “train” (basically the original train is out of commission and has been replaced by smaller touristy trains). Still, it’s really fun because you get to ride on top to take in the gorgeous scenery:

Ariella on Train

Feet on train
My ugly backpacker feet hanging off the train

The whole thing kind of feels like Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland, only it’s quasi real. There are some pretty freaky portions of the track:


The best part of the whole thing is just taking in the countryside, which is incredibly lush and lovely:


The trip has been really wonderful so far because I seem to meet new nice people wherever I go. It has been great to get out of Quito and into the more rural parts of country. Ecuador really is beautiful, and the people are incredibly friendly (and unlike in Quito, things feel pretty safe in the smaller towns). I still get nervous every now and then when I feel out of my element (riding in a horse down a mountain for example), but after about 10 days here I am starting to settle in to my journey on the Gringo Trail.


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